Section 2: Reduction of Virus Transmission

Anyone displaying any of the main identified COVID symptoms must not attend school. They should stay at home and follow the protocols detailed on NI Direct.

Keeping your Distance

NI Direct guidance reflects the position across wider society that individuals should try and keep a safe distance from those from outside their households and the same approach should be applied in schools. In line with this guidance, schools should consider how they could encourage staff, pupils and visitors to kv eep their distance from each other wherever physical capacity and curriculum delivery permit. It is recognised that in many settings and in classrooms in particular, there will be limited opportunities where individuals are able to maintain a significant distance from others.

For children and young people in special schools with the most complex additional support needs, schools should involve lead professionals and parents to decide how best to continue supporting them.

While schools may wish to continue to put in place their own contact reducing measures, it is no longer recommended that pupils are maintained in consistent groups or bubbles. 

Keeping Your Distance When Delivering 1:1 Care

Provision of one to one care and support is integral to the delivery of quality education and support to some of our most vulnerable pupils. Where staff consistently remain with a pupil or a class social distancing between those adults and children may be relaxed. Further guidance for special schools is available in section 5 of this guidance.

When providing one-to-one care for SEN or vulnerable pupils, adults should keep their distance from other adults wherever possible. It is important in cases where staff are working closely with children e.g. in carrying out Aerosol Generating Procedures that the necessary PPE is used.

For one-to-one care or support between staff and pupils where a suitable distance cannot be maintained, an appropriate face covering and visor should be used as determined by a risk assessment.

Please refer to the following Public Health Agency guidance relating to Aerosol Generating Procedures:

Keeping Your Distance in Wraparound Care and Extra-Curricular Activities

Provision of wraparound care and extra-curricular activities should align with NI Direct guidance in encouraging individuals to keep their distance where possible and comply with any additional guidance provided by the Department of Health (DoH).

Gatherings of People

Any gatherings of people as referenced below should undertake risk assessments where appropriate. They should also take place with appropriate COVID mitigations based upon the circumstances of the gathering. These include ensuring the venue is suitably ventilated and participants being encouraged to keep their distance where possible.

Schools are able to host both outdoor and indoor gatherings such as school concerts, sports days and open days and should follow NI Direct  guidance in terms of mitigations such as encouraging individuals to keep their distance, ventilating indoor spaces and requesting the use of face coverings by visitors, particularly for indoor events. Schools should continue to ensure all appropriate mitigations are in place for such events, however, the educational, social and mental wellbeing benefits that the hosting of such events can bring to the pupils and staff involved mean that schools should attempt to restore the provision of these events.

Schools are now able to host gatherings such as school assemblies, but should continue to consider and manage the potential risks of COVID transmission.

Schools are able to host face to face meetings/events with parents and visitors, subject to appropriate mitigations being put in place, but digital alternatives remain available and each school should determine the benefits of each approach for their school community.

In school meetings between school staff are able to be held face to face if a school wishes to do so. Schools should be mindful of the need to ensure appropriate mitigations are in place rooms such as using a suitably sized, well ventilated room and that staff are encouraged to keep their distance.

Through schools’ knowledge of current case levels both in their schools and in the community, the levels of mitigations employed by that school are able to be flexed over the short term to reflect current circumstances. For example, during a period of particularly high case numbers, schools may wish to consider short term alternatives to the hosting of some gatherings such as school assemblies or some face to face meetings. While such actions are likely to be appropriate only in very limited circumstances, it allows schools to be agile in their response to changing local circumstances.

Use of Outdoor Spaces

When the weather is conducive, education settings should seek to safely maximise their use of the outdoor environment as public health advice is that use of outdoor environments can limit transmission

While face coverings are recommended in some circumstances, if any pupil is unable or unwilling to wear a face covering, they should not be denied access to the full range of educational opportunities. All pupils and members of staff should be permitted to wear a face covering at school if they wish to do so. The Departments recommendations on the use of face coverings are shown below:

  • Primary school children are not recommended to use face coverings on school premises
  • From Easter 2022 it is no longer recommended that a face covering is worn by post-primary pupils on school premises.
  • It is strongly recommended that all pupils regardless of age continue to wear a face covering on all public and school transport where it is appropriate for them to do so and they are able to handle them as directed. They should not be used by some children and young people with special educational needs who may become distressed.
  • Both inside and outside classroom settings, staff are able to wear a face covering at any time that they would wish. In staff communal areas there should also be use of other appropriate mitigations such as ensuring the room is appropriately ventilated.
  • All visitors to the school should be encouraged to wear a face covering.

Face coverings in schools for Deaf children and young people

The EA’s Sensory Service has provided information and advice on the impact of wearing face coverings in schools for deaf children and young people. 

Hygiene Measures

Personal hand and respiratory hygiene measures remain a fundamental aspect of preventing transmission of the virus and schools should facilitate good practices wherever possible.

Public health advice is that there is a relatively low risk of virus transmission associated with surface contacts in schools. Schools should therefore not seek to restrict items being brought into or out of school premises on the basis of COVID risks.


Good ventilation is one of the key controls to prevent the spread of COVID. Further advice from the EA is available on measures to enhance ventilation,  what to do if schools have a concern about ventilation, and on the use of CO2 monitors. 

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